The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Afghanistan:
A Hidden Army in Britain’s Prisons

Oct 26, 2009

This is reprinted from the October issue of Workers Fight, the publication of a revolutionary workers group active in Great Britain.

The numbers of servicemen killed and wounded in Blair’s and Brown’s wars tells only half the story. A probation officers’ report reveals that in addition to 12,000 former servicemen on probation or parole, 8,500 are in prison. This is almost equal to the number of troops currently in Afghanistan and accounts for nearly one in 10 of the prison population. In fact the numbers of jailed ex-servicemen has increased by 30% over the past five years, as the Afghan war intensified.

Nearly half suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder or depression, often coupled with chronic alcohol and drug abuse. A former head of traumatic stress services in London said: “If we ask people to do appalling things, regular firefights and hand-to-hand combat, you get to the point where it desensitizes them to violence.”

Yes, wars can damage soldiers for life in more than one way. Young men are not born to be killing machines nor living targets. And when they are used and abused in this way by governments, to serve their great power games, when they lose their buddies in the fighting and come back with images of civilians killed and maimed gratuitously under their eyes, it can be hard for them to find a place in “normal” life. In that sense, these wars have been wars against all populations, Iraqi and Afghan, but also British.